Q & A with Harry Rinker: WWII Puzzle & Poster, Star Wars Toys, Cowboy Costume

QUESTION: As a collector of WWII aviation items, I came across a “Fighters for Victory” picture puzzle in its period box. It was put together in the past, and I am considering assembling it. If it is complete, I plan to frame and mount it in the room that houses my WWII aviation items. My concern is that by doing so, I may be damaging the puzzle’s value, especially if I follow the standard practice of gluing the pieces and shellacking the puzzle. What are your thoughts?

– DB, La Grange, IL, via e-mail

ANSWER: Jigsaw puzzles were popular during World War II. Since they were paper products, they were exempt from restrictions on “vital war materials.” Jigsaw puzzles were produced and sold in tens of thousand units.

Harry RinkerJaymar made the “Fighters for Victory” series. Although your e-mail failed to include the title of the puzzle, it does not matter. “Fighters for Victory” puzzles are common. Complete examples sell on eBay between $12.50 and $20. You have a “feel free to do as you like” card.

First, assemble your jigsaw puzzle to determine if it is complete. If it is not, it has no value except for the box. If you like the image, buy a complete example from an eBay seller. It is difficult to combine pieces from two incomplete puzzles to make a whole. Manufacturing tolerances were not tight, unlike most other wartime production.

Second, if the puzzle is complete, take it to a frame shop, have an acid-free mat cut that provides a one- to two-inch border around the puzzle (use as many layers as necessary to level the top of the mat with the top of the puzzle), place another acid-free mat beneath, and frame it with a glass covering. The pressure of the puzzle against the glass should hold it together.

Third, if the second suggestion sounds like too much work, glue the puzzle together and place a frame around it. I would avoid shellacking it. Shellac tends to darken over time. The same applies to varnish.


QUESTION: I have a Star Wars “Return of the Jedi” Ewok Village Action Playset. I stored it for my son after he lost interest in his Star Wars toys as a young boy more than 25 years ago. I have not taken it out of the box since, but I know it is all there. No characters were included with the set. The box has normal wear. Its period $19.99 price sticker is attached. What value does this have?

– JO, Bethlehem, PA, via –mail

ANSWER: “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” the third Star Wars’ film and the final film of the first trilogy, was released on May 25, 1983. The film introduced the use of THX, a new sound technology. Initially toy manufacturers took a conservative approach to Star Wars toy licensing. Star Wars licensed toys did not grace store shelves until several months following the release of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” Licensed Episode VI toys became available as soon as the picture was released.

“The Return of the Jedi” Ewok Village, one of the largest Kenner plastic action figure play sets, was issued in 1983. The set recreates the Ewok’s treetop home. Three trees support a platform located halfway up their trunks. Features include a boulder that swings from a dead tree branch, a manually operated capture net, an elevator that transports figures from the ground to the platform, a fire pit with rotisserie, huts, and a litter for carrying C-3P0.

Triva Question: Kenner recycled the tooling for the Ewok Village to create what later toy line?

The Ewok Village appears as No. 3 on Gunaxin’s list of top 10 Star Wars toys. Action figures to complement the toy had to be purchased separately.

All references about the set express concern that few sets survive with all pieces intact. Take the set out of the box, assemble it, and compare it with the parts list on the instruction sheet. If the instruction sheet is missing, compare the set with the picture on the box.

Book value for the set is between $75 and $90—numbers that seemed low when I first encountered them. However, an eBay search revealed these numbers are a tad high. A value between $50 and $70 for a complete set is more realistic.


QUESTION: While attending a garage sale in a warehouse, I noted a framed World War II poster hanging on the wall. The poster measures 36 inches by 67 inches. The central image is the head of a skeleton wearing a pilot’s helmet. The text above the head reads “HIDDEN/ERRORS.” The skeletal fingers of a left hand point to “COST/LIVES!” beneath the head. “DON’T HIDE ERRORS…/REPORT THEM TO YOUR FOREMAN” appears on the bottom. “B-Q-80V” is in the bottom right corner. The asking price was $250. I took a chance and paid $200. The seller told me he had listed it on eBay with a requested opening bid of $500 and had no takers. I checked it with a magnifying glass and the colors are solid. The orange and green highlights have a soft color tone. Is this a period piece or a reproduction?

– SD, Orlando, FL, via e-mail

ANSWER: I checked several reference books to World War II posters. I did not find any posters that matched the 36- x 67-inch size of the poster. Most WWII posters were smaller; 28 inches x 40 inches is standard. A movie one-sheet measures 27 inches x 41 inches and a three-sheet is 41 inches x 81 inches. When something differs from the norm, I get suspicious.

Ask A WorthologistSince your poster is not artist signed, I carefully studied the hands and color schemes of hundreds of WWII posters. Once again, I did not find a match.

Having discussed the negatives, here are the positives. The pictures that accompanied your e-mail suggest the poster is circa 1943-1945. The poster is printed on an inexpensive pulp paper which turns brown and becomes brittle. The photograph showing the paper loss along the edge supports this. Look closely at the areas of loss. A distinct line separating the poster paper from the backing should be evident. One of the easiest ways to spot photographic reproductions is to look at the damage. A quick glance will tell you if it is part of the photographic image, not a good sign.

The poster is a lithograph, a process that layers one color on top of another. Your magnifying glass inspection confirmed this. In the mid-1940s lithography still was the primary method for printing posters.

I spent more than a half hour visiting Web sites selling reproduction World War II posters. I did not find any listings for your poster. This is a good sign. The corollary is that your poster is not a one-of-a-kind object, it was mass produced. Other examples must have survived. Given the strong graphic image, it is surprising that none of the reference books included an illustration. When researching antiques and collectibles, not everything is illustrated. There are objects, even common ones, which never appear in a reference book.

Assuming the WWII poster is period, the $200 you paid is more than a fair price. My gut tells me that it is worth between $350 and $400, possibly more. Its size is a problem, albeit a minor one. It required a large display space. The poster’s scarcity negates this concern. Had the seller placed it on eBay with an opening bid request of $200, he probably would have attracted an opening bid and enough interested buyers to drive up the price.


QUESTION: I have the 1950s child’s cowboy outfit that belonged to my husband’s brother. He was 5 when he wore it. The vest and chaps are suede. The button-down shirt has a white body with black trim at the cuffs and around the neck. The leather holster might be homemade. What is its value?

– K&RLoB, NV, via e-mail

ANSWER: Halloween cowboy costumes were popular in the 1930s. Most were generic.

[Author’s Aside: Go to harryrinker.com. The home page features a late 1940s picture of me in a hand-me-down 1930s generic cowboy costume.]

The television cowboy craze began in the early 1950s and lasted throughout the decade. Bill Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Gene Autry and Roy Rogers licensed outfits that competed with generic examples. While the chaps, holster and vest could date from the late 1940s, they are more likely from the late 1930s. However, the shirt is vintage early 1950s children’s western apparel. Many mothers of that era mixed, matched and recycled.

Assuming the costume is a marriage (pieces which did not start out life together) and generic, its value is between $30 and $40. If it were a 1950s TV licensed cowboy costume, the value would double or triple. When a generic cowboy costume is in its period box, the value of the unit increases $5 to $10.

Trivia Quiz Answer: The Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), staring Kevin Costner, toy line.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.

You can listen and participate in “WHATCHA GOT?,” Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“SELL, KEEP OR TOSS? HOW TO DOWNSIZE A HOME, SETTLE AN ESTATE, AND APPRAISE PERSONAL PROPERTY” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site: http://www.harryrinker.com

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected letters will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5093 Vera Cruz Road, Emmaus, PA 18049. You also can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2009

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